Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and a basic human right (World Health Organization, 2000). Nevertheless, globally 1.1 bn. people are without access to a safe water supply, and of this number 28% is found on the African continent. During the period 1990 to 2000, the global human population expanded by 15% to reach an estimated 6.06 bn. people. Africa’s population growth is almost double the global average.
It has been predicted that by 2015, half the world’s population could be facing serious water shortages and could also run out of safe drinking water due to the unprecedented rise in the population and the associated degradation of water sources (Postel, 2002; Barker, 1997; Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, 2001). It is reasonable to deduce that this situation cannot be sustained unless steps are instituted to ensure effective water management.
Moreover, it has recently been reported that rivers on every continent are drying up threatening severe water shortages as river basins are nature’s way of collecting and making water available for human consumption (World Wide Fund, 2007). Once natural water sources have been harnessed and water is made available to communities through organised water provisioning systems, it still does not mean that all the water will reach its intended destination. In 2007 the South African Water Research Commission (WRC) completed a study on water loss/wastage in 62 municipalities in South Africa. The loss amounted to approximately 36% of the total amount of water supplied by the municipalities. This loss was of non-revenue water, i.e. unbilled water and included both physical and commercial losses within the reticulation system.
South Africa, a water-stressed country, requires careful management of the demand for water, and its judicious use is a topic which can no longer be avoided. The Constitution of South Africa 108 of 1996 (Sections 27 (1) b and 27 (2)) enshrines citizens’ right of access to water. The National Water Act 36 of 1998 establishes the national government acting through the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry to be the public trustee of the nation’s water resources. The aim of the Water Act is to protect, use, develop, manage and control the country’s water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner for the benefit of all the people. Although the provision of water to citizens is a state responsibility, its prudent and efficient use is an individual concern and duty which is made clear by the National Water Act.
WATER – SA
Please conserve water – it is a mutual responsibiity.